April 4, 2014
Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders in Southern California hold vigil calling for a revamp in federal immigration laws.
Several of Southern California’s most prominent religious leaders held a vigil for immigration reform in downtown Los Angeles on Friday, underscoring a growing interfaith effort to change the nation’s laws.
Immigrants who are in the United States illegally “need mercy and they need justice,” said Archbishop Jose Gomez, welcoming an array of Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders to the gathering at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
“Times have changed,” said Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. “Some have framed the issue as a monolithic issue of a particular denomination. But that is a myth. The immigration issue transcends all creeds, all colors, all languages.
“It does not matter whether my particular people are suffering,” he said. “But we look at it as our people are suffering. And we stand with those suffering people.”
Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-interfaith-immigration-20140405,0,4994674.story#ixzz2yE27uDp5
LOS ANGELES AND SAN FRANCISCO – The ACLU of Southern California (ACLU SoCal), the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR), and the law firm of Mayer Brown today released a 70-page report exposing a covert government program called the “Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program” (CARRP), which was created in 2008 to make it all but impossible for many Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern, and South Asian individuals to become American citizens, or otherwise obtain legal residency or asylum status.
The government program was meant to screen immigrants for national security concerns has blacklisted some Muslims and put their U.S. citizenship applications on hold for years, civil liberties advocates said Wednesday.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said in a report that the previously undisclosed program instructs federal immigration officers to find ways to deny applications that have been deemed a national security concern. For example, they flag discrepancies in a petition or claim they didn’t receive sufficient information from the immigrant.
The criteria used by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to blacklist immigrants are overly broad and include traveling through regions where there is terrorist activity, the report said.
The ACLU learned about the program through records requests after detecting a pattern in cases of Muslim immigrants whose applications to become American citizens had languished.
“It is essentially creating this secret criteria for obtaining naturalization and immigration benefits that has never been disclosed to the public and Congress hasn’t approved,” said Jennie Pasquarella, an ACLU staff attorney and the author of the report.
Under the program, immigration officers determine whether a case poses a national security concern and confer with the appropriate law enforcement agency that has information about the immigrant. Officers then conduct additional research and put many cases on hold for long periods of time. Most applications are eventually denied, as the program states that officers are not allowed to approve such cases without additional review, the report said.
Put simply, this is just another striving, improbable, poetic American Dream story: How a family, venerating work and education, traveled from the notorious South Central LA of “Boyz In The Hood” to settle in Spielberg Americana in the shadow of the soaring San Bernardino Mountains—a family with not one but two brothers recruited to play Division I football at Washington State University, followed even more notably by NFL careers.
But this story has taken many more remarkable turns. Tonight on Rock Center with Brian Williams (10p ET), in a remarkable journey from Southern California to Saudi Arabia, correspondent Mary Carillo tells the story of Husain and Hamza Abdullah, who, at their athletic peak … associated with America’s most glamorous, most popular sport … walked away, for the glory of God.
“We’ve been playing football since we were 8 years old,” Husain Abdullah told Carillo, “from Pop Warner to high school, and to college, and into the NFL. And although we’re knocking down all these barriers, doing things that people said you can’t do, all of a sudden, it was like there’s more to life than this. There’s more. And we had to go for it.”
UPLAND, Calif. — Three of the young men swept up in a federal terrorism probe grew up in the Southern California suburbs where they played pick-up basketball, ran for homecoming court and sparred in video games with neighborhood kids — a far cry from the wannabe terrorists described by the FBI.
Two of the men converted to Islam less than two years ago and the third, an American-born Vietnamese Muslim, drifted into their orbit as recently as September after a game of paintball. He also is an unemployed high school dropout and new father.
The rapid evolution from suburban teen to aspiring jihadist alleged in court documents blindsided family members, but experts who study homegrown terrorism said the case highlights the susceptibility of new converts to radicalization, particularly among the young.
Two of the members of what the FBI called an extremist network — Miguel Alejandro Santana Vidriales, 21, and Ralph Deleon, 23 — converted after meeting Sohiel Omar Kabir in an Ontario, Calif., hookah bar. The naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan introduced them to the radical Islamist doctrine of the U.S.-born extremist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed last year in an American airstrike in Yemen, according to court files unsealed this week.
Kabir, 34, later returned to Afghanistan but continued to give direction to the Southern California men on Skype. He was taken into custody last weekend.
All four men are facing charges of providing material support to terrorists, which can carry a maximum 15-year prison sentence.
Authorities won’t say how the investigation began, but at least two members of the group shared their beliefs on Facebook and held Skype phone calls with Kabir — all of which was recorded by an FBI informant or captured by agents monitoring their activity.
(RNS) Coptic Christian leaders in the United States distanced themselves from an anti-Muslim film that has sparked protests in more than 20 countries, and denounced the Copts who reportedly produced and promoted the film.
“We reject any allegation that the Coptic Orthodox community has contributed to the production of this film,” the Coptic Orthodox Archdiocese of America said in statement on Friday (Sept. 14). “Indeed, the producers of this film have taken these unwise and offensive actions independently and should be held responsible for their own actions.”
Joseph Nassralla Abdelmasih, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula and Morris Sadek – all Coptic Christians who live in the U.S. – have emerged as the producers and promoters of the anti-Muslim film. Called “Innocence of Muslims,” the crude film depicts Islam’s Prophet Muhammad as a bumbling sexual pervert.
There are about 300,000 Copts in the United States, most of whom live in California and the Northeast. Copts in Egypt, where the faith was born, regularly face discrimination and violence at the hands of the Muslim majority, according to the State Department.
Bishop Serapion of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles, Southern California and Hawaii said he “strongly rejects dragging the respectable Copts of the Diaspora” into the controversy.
The ACLU is representing a Muslim woman who says she was harassed and told she could not wear her head scarf as a hostess at a Disney hotel cafe in Anaheim.
A former Disney employee is expected to announce Monday a federal lawsuit against the entertainment giant, saying she was harassed and unfairly removed from her hostess job after refusing to remove her head scarf while at work.
Imane Boudlal, who is Muslim, said she had worked at Storyteller’s Cafe in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa in Anaheim for two years when she began wearing her hijab to work in August 2010. Boudlal said she was told wearing her scarf was a violation of company policy, and she would either have to remove it, cover it with a hat or take a job working out of public sight.
Boudlal, now 28, refused. She has not worked at Disney since Aug. 21, 2010, said Mark Rosenbaum, an attorney from the ACLU of Southern California who is representing Boudlal.
A seminar for young Muslim women in Southern California tackled three topics that Muslim women face daily: Self-esteem, media literacy, and health and wellness. The women of “Free to be Me” speak in their own words about the challenges of defending their faith.
The Obama administration should rethink its outrageous proposal that would allow the government to lie to citizens about whether documents exist.
One of the most disappointing attributes of the Obama administration has been its proclivity for secrecy. The president who committed himself to “an unprecedented level of openness in government” has followed the example of his predecessor by invoking the “state secrets” privilege to derail litigation about government misdeeds in the war on terror. He has refused to release the administration’s secret interpretation of the Patriot Act, which two senators have described as alarming. He has blocked the dissemination of photographs documenting the abuse of prisoners by U.S. service members. And now his Justice Department has proposed to allow government agencies to lie about the existence of documents being sought under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.
Even without the new rule, federal law enforcement agents have denied the existence of important documents. In a lawsuit involving surveillance of Muslim organizations in Southern California, the FBI was reprimanded by a federal judge. “The Government cannot, under any circumstance, affirmatively mislead the court,” wrote Judge Cormac J. Carney. The FBI justified its misrepresentation by citing national security.
SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. — A Southern California councilman is drawing criticism for mentioning in a public meeting that he named his dog after the Muslim prophet Muhammad.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations has called on Derek Reeve to apologize for his comment at a recent San Juan Capistrano council meeting. The Islamic advocacy group says Reeve mentioned naming his dogs America and Muhammad during a discussion about a new dog park.
The Orange County Register reports that Reeve said he named his dog Muhammad as a political statement.
Obama, once a critic of the state secrets doctrine, has invoked it repeatedly. But critics say his latest use of Bush’s favorite get-out-of-court-free card is different.
The state secrets privilege—perhaps the most powerful weapon in the government’s legal arsenal—has a complicated history. For years, Democrats, including then-Sen. Barack Obama, accused the Bush administration of overusing of the privilege, which allows the government to quash cases that involve national security before a court even hears evidence. Then, after Obama took office, his Justice Department used this get-out-of-court-free card repeatedly.
Last week, the DOJ invoked the state secrets privilege yet again. But this case, civil liberties groups say, is different.
The case, Fazaga v. FBI, stems from the purported actions of Craig Monteilh, a 49-year-old convicted criminal who claims that he spent 15 months in 2006 and 2007 infiltrating mosques in Orange County, California, as part of an undercover FBI investigation known as “Operation Flex.” The Fazaga case, which the ACLU and CAIR filed in February 2011, claims that the FBI utilized Monteilh to “collect personal information on hundreds and perhaps thousands of innocent Muslim Americans in Southern California.” The ACLU says that the FBI investigation “violated the Constitution’s fundamental guarantee of government neutrality toward all religions.” For evidence, the two groups point to a somewhat problematic source: Monteilh.